Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Celebrity Fare: Famous Foods Named After Famous People

Victoria sponge cake from

The origins of some of our most popular foods are entwined with celebrities of the past.
When we sit down for a tea and biscuit, or a slice of cake, we might be consuming a little bit of celebrity history. Because some of our most common and popular foods are indelibly entwined with famous people of the past.
Early Grey tea and Garibaldi biscuits, and the classic Victoria sponge cake, are among our most favoured foods and drinks named after historical figures.
Rich, famous and talented historical celebrities have also lent their names to seafood dishes, puddings and champagne.
Take a biscuit, made of currants sandwiched between wheat wafers - a British stalwart. The humble Garibaldi is thought to be named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian general who fought for 30 years to free and unite Italy with his red-shirted troops. The biscuits are named after rations his men ate during his campaigns.

More than 150 years after Italy's unification, his great-granddaughter has lobbied for his tomb to be opened, to find out whether he was buried there instead of cremated as he had asked.
Such leaders have often been immortalised in our kitchen cupboards, and on our plates.
Earl Grey tea takes its name from Charles Grey, the second Early Grey, and British prime minister from 1830 until 1834. It has a distinctive bergamot (citrus) flavour to it, which at the time of discovery, was seen as new and exciting. Twinings tea claims to be the home of Earl Grey tea and says: "The story goes that Earl Grey, the Georgian prime minister, was given cases of this tea by a Chinese Mandarin. "He liked it so much he brought it home and asked Twinings to recreate it for him."
Then there's Beef Wellington.
Some say it was named after the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, during the Napoleonic wars. Others say it was the English name given to the French dish, beef-en-croute (beef in pastry) at the time. There are even reports it may have been named after Wellington's boots.

Strawberry pavlova
Pavlova is named after a Russian ballerina, despite arguments over who invented it.

Sometimes a story can be repeated so many times it garners assumed truth.
Recently Zachary Nowak, the assistant director of Food Studies at the Umbra Institute in Perugia, Italy, questioned the provenance of margherita pizza.
It is widely thought that margherita pizza was named after Italy's Queen Margherita, who chose the tomato, basil and mozzarella pizza over other flavours on a trip to Naples in 1889.
Mr Nowak has studied a thank you note in a pizzeria supposedly from the palace and says that is not the case. While the naming of a great pizza is under dispute, the naming of a great Champagne is not.
Philippe Clicquot, from a family of merchants and bankers, founded the Champagne house of Clicquot in 1772, and his son Francois later joined the firm. However, after Francois's death, his wife Barbe Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin took over running the house in 1805.
Veuve, means widow in French, and at the time when businesses were male-dominated, the widow Clicquot ran the company to great international acclaim, leading to Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin becoming the name of a Champagne house and brand.
Stephane Gerschel, from Veuve Clicquot, says: "The Veuve Clicquot was a woman who two centuries ago revolutionised Champagne, with her extraordinary stamina, her thirst for innovation and her quest for ultimate quality."

Toast the classics:

Beef Wellington
Bake an homage to Anna Pavlova
Create a Carpaccio masterpiece
Puzzle over the origin of Beef Wellington

Now her name has also been given to the World's Best Female Chef award, which honours inspiration, creativity and dedication, won most recently by Elena Arzak.
One British woman may have had more foods named after her than any other.
Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years, and loved to eat. In her time, a range of foods were named after her, including a plum and the eponymous sponge, much loved by home bakers.
Carpaccio was dedicated to the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio in around 1950, the redness of the raw meat close in hue to a red he painted with.
And, of course, the baked white Antipodean dessert, the Pavlova, is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
She visited both Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s, with both nations laying claim to the creation. However in 2010, the Oxford English Dictionary was revised to say the first recorded pavlova recipe appeared in New Zealand in 1927.
Over the pond in the US, a fishy dish also got its moniker from high society.
Oysters Rockefeller were created in New Orleans in Antoine's restaurant in 1899, and named after the richest American at the time, John D Rockefeller, as the sauce was so rich.
They are oysters topped with sauce and green herbs and bread crumbs and baked, but Antoine's exact recipe remains a closely-guarded secret.

With thanks to BBC Food for having great recipes and interesting articles.

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